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Netherlands considering to drop permissive drug policy?

Drug users’ paradise will soon became tougher for one of the elements of the country's permissive drug policy will be rolled back after a series of well-publicized negative incidents – the Dutch government will ban the sale of hallucinogenic mushrooms.

The decision will go into effect within several months and does not need parliamentary approval, Wim van der Weegen said.

"We intend to forbid the sale of magic mushrooms," he said. "That means shops caught doing so will be closed."

Under the country's famed tolerance policy, marijuana and hashish are technically illegal but police do not bother to prosecute people for possession of small amounts, and it is sold openly in designated cafes.

Possession of "hard" drugs like cocaine and Ecstasy is illegal. Mushrooms will fall somewhere in the middle.

"We're not talking about a non-prosecution policy, but we'll be targeting sellers" Van der Weegen said.

Psilocybin, the main active chemical in the mushrooms, has been illegal under international law since 1971. However, mushrooms that are fresh and unprocessed in any way continued to be sold legally in the Netherlands, on the theory that it was impossible to determine how much of the naturally occurring substance any given mushroom contains.

Van der Weegen said that, in the end, that was also the reason the policy proved unworkable.

"The problem with mushrooms is that their effect is unpredictable. It's impossible to estimate what amount will have what effect."

Calls for a re-evaluation arose after 17-year-old French girl Gaelle Caroff jumped from a building after eating psychedelic mushrooms while on a school visit to Amsterdam.

Caroff's parents blamed their daughter's death on hallucinations brought on by the mushrooms, though the teenager had suffered from psychiatric problems in the past. Photographs of her beautiful, youthful face were splashed across newspapers around the country.

Since Caroff's death, other dramatic stories involving mushrooms have been reported in the Dutch press, though mushroom vendors complained that each of the cases involved tourists who were using other drugs and alcohol at the same time - against their usage instructions for mushrooms.

- A British tourist, 22, ran amok in a hotel, breaking his window and slicing his hand badly.

- An Icelandic tourist, 19, thought he was being chased and jumped from a balcony, breaking both his legs.

- A Danish tourist, 29, drove his car wildly through a campground, narrowly missing people sleeping in their tents.

In May, the country's health minister, Ab Klink, undertook a study of the problems and called for suggestions from the industry and Amsterdam's city government.

Mushroom vendors said only adults should be allowed to buy the drugs, and they should be given better instructions.

Amsterdam Mayor Job Cohen had suggested a three-day "cooling off" period between ordering them and using them. Most mushrooms sold in Amsterdam are sold to tourists, and the city's reputation for liberal drug policies and legalized prostitution are major tourist attractions.

This week, Health Minister Klink agreed with the country's justice minister that merely tightening controls on the mushrooms did not go far enough.

"As far as we're concerned, this will go into effect as soon as possible," Van der Weegen said.

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